Melatonin Is an Unlikely Antioxidant

OTC GuideJune 2019
Volume 23
Issue 1

Recently, it was discovered that melatonin’s endocrine properties extend to the skin and hair.

Melatonin is known as a sleeping pill because it is released by the pineal gland in the brain and helps us fall asleep at night when it is dark. Melatonin is very connected with our circadian rhythm and the environment.

Recently, it was discovered that melatonin’s endocrine properties extend to the skin and hair. Could that be why animals shed their fur in the summer and grow thicker fur in the winter? Perhaps.

We do know for sure that there are melatonin receptors in the skin and hair follicles.1 Our skin makes the melatonin that is needed to keep our skin healthy and youthful. Taking melatonin orally does not have the same effect and therefore pharmacists may see a surgent of melatonin topical products.

Melatonin keeps our skin healthy and youthful by 2 major mechanisms. It has antioxidant effects that neutralizes the oxidative damage from the sun,2-4 and by stimulating growth receptors in the skin.1

The antioxidant effects of melatonin are so strong, they are thought to be strong and more potent than glutathione,2 vitamin C3, and vitamin E.4

Melatonin is also being studied in other areas of health, such as neurodegenerative diseases, cancers, and antiaging.

For more pharmacist-recommended OTC products, visit

Gunda Siska, PharmD, is a staff hospital pharmacist assisting doctors and nurses with drug prescribing, administration, and dispensing, as well as independently monitoring and dosing highly toxic and dangerous drugs.


  • Kleszczynski K, Fischer TW. Melatonin and human skin aging. Dermatoendocrinol. 2012;4(3):245-252. doi: 10.4161/derm.22344.
  • López-Burillo S1, Tan DX, Mayo JC, Sainz RM, Manchester LC, Reiter RJ. Melatonin, xanthurenic acid, resveratrol, EGCG, vitamin C and alpha-lipoic acid differentially reduce oxidative DNA damage induced by Fenton reagents: a study of their individual and synergistic actions. J Pineal Res. 2003;34(4):269-277.
  • Montilla-López P1, Muñoz-Agueda MC, Feijóo López M, Muñoz-Castañeda JR, Bujalance-Arenas I, Túnez-Fiñana I. Comparison of melatonin versus vitamin C on oxidative stress and antioxidant enzyme activity in Alzheimer’s disease induced by okadaic acid in neuroblastoma cells. Eur J Pharmacol. 2002;451(3):237-43.
  • Mayo JC, Tan DX, Sainz RM, Natarajan M, Lopez-Burillo S, Reiter RJ.. Protection against oxidative protein damage induced by metal-catalyzed reaction or alkylperoxyl radicals: comparative effects of melatonin and other antioxidants. Biochimica et Biophysica Acta (BBA) - General Subjects. 2003;1620(1-3):139-50.

Recent Videos
Practice Pearl #1 Active Surveillance vs Treatment in Patients with NETs